Brian Ortega was a little ashamed to admit he didn’t know who Robert Downey Jr. was the first time he got a call from the star of “Avengers: Infinity War”.
Following wins over Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar, Ortega used his platform to promote his Brian Ortega Foundation as well as the recently introduced ‘T-City Scholarship’ that sends kids from 6 to 16 years of age to a free year of training at any certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy across the world.
That led to an introduction to Downey, who actually made a video in support of the campaign while raffling off an invite to join him at the “Avengers” premiere to help raise money for his foundation.
When Ortega first got word that he was going to be receiving a call from the actor, he didn’t know him by name but once he laid eyes on Downey, he figured out rather quickly who he was talking to on the phone.
“I got a call…they’re saying ‘RDJ’ and they kept saying it’s RDJ and I’m like ‘who’s RDJ’ and they said ‘Robert Downey Jr.’ and I said ‘who’s Robert Downey Jr.'” Ortega revealed recently at a media luncheon ahead of his fight at UFC 226. “I didn’t want to say this but I’ll say it now. I didn’t really understand cause I don’t follow sports in general and they said ‘RDJ’s going to Facetime you’ and I’m like OK, I’m finally going to find out who this is.
“I get the Facetime and I’m like ‘holy s–t it’s Iron Man!’. Then I played I cool and I’m like ‘hey bro we’re working out’ and I looked at my coach and I’m like ‘I’ve got to go to the car, Iron Man is on the phone, Tony Stark!”
Ortega’s enthusiasm to talk to Downey was only multiplied after they started chatting and the top ranked featherweight contender figured out that he had more in common with him than he first would have imagined.
“I got on the phone and we started talking and he was one of the most realest people I’ve ever met,” Ortega said. “He asked me where I live and and I go ‘I’m in Carson’ and he goes ‘no way’ and he told me some stuff and he was like ‘I’ve been to Carson [police] station before I went to Twin Towers’ before he got locked up and I was like no way, I have too. We kind of bonded over that situation and it was just cool. To see someone at that level just be so real.”
“For me it was easy to bond with and after that we just kind of set up a relationship and he just texts me and I text him. He’s cool.”
You red carpet ready? I am… Join me in Hollywood, CA for the world premiere of @marvelstudios #Avengers #InfinityWar … Donate $10 to support the fabulous #ROHHADassociation and win (2) VIP tix … Click the link in my BIO or go to crowdrise.com/rdj ( ?cred: @jimmy_rich ??cred: @mo_freek ) @briantcity …
Prior to his fame in recent years, Downey had several brushes with law enforcement with a couple of stints in jail that helped him kick his addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Ortega has gone through his own brushes with the law and so he was easily able to chat with Downey about their shared past as well as redemption.
According to Ortega, Downey helped raise $50,000 for his foundation during that contest he ran ahead of the most recent “Avengers” movie.
“In the Cub [Swanson] fight, I said I want to get people’s attention. After the Frankie [Edgar] fight, I said the same thing. I finally got someone’s attention,” Ortega said about working with Downey. “Not only that but I feel like he feels me from how I grew up cause I didn’t realize but he’s been through way ups and downs as well, worse than I have. I feel like he’s seeing a little bit of that in me and he knows that I want to help people and he decided to help me help people, which is what I wanted.
“People such as Robert Downey Jr. and other people to reach out and say ‘hey bro what can I do to help you help people?’. He did something with the “Avengers” movie premiere and he invited me to the movie premiere as well. From the UFC to red carpet Hollywood was something different and I loved it. I was just amazing for him to do that.”
Ortega says he plans on continuing to use his platform as one of the best fighters in the world to promote his foundation and help people in need.
“So far the Foundation is just going through the roof,” Ortega said. “I thought it was going to be a good turnout but it’s turning out even faster than what I prepared it to be. Now I can’t wait for this fight to be done so I can go back to helping people.”